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Sun Sets on Senior Year By. Sebastian Oliva and Noah Bernstein

On June 4, Community High School (CHS) held its forty-ninth commencement ceremony in unorthodox fashion. This year, students and teachers gathered at the Pioneer High School football field, instead of Rackham Auditorium, the traditional, but indoor venue. As students settled down, the beating sun reflected off the turf and onto their black, foldable seats. Sunglasses, white umbrellas and water bottles were their only reprieve from the heat as Dean Marci Tuzinsky took the stage.

In her introductory speech, Tuzinsky acknowledged the strenuous effort the Class of 2021 had given in these last fifteen months and celebrated CHS’ recent retirees: Anne Thomas, Judith DeWoskin, Ed Kulka, Robbie Stapelton, Pam Kirchen and Cindy Haidu-Banks. Superintendent Jeanice Swift, Assistant Dean Rebecca Westrate and counselors Brian Williams and Amy McLoughlin were also on stage.

Marci Tuzinsky introduces the Class of 2021. Photo by Sebastian Oliva.

Then came the presentation of several academic awards to CHS seniors. First, Ella Anderson took home the Jill Award for having made the school “a happier place.” Next, Elizabeth Shaieb received the Community Resource Award, which honors the student who best utilized CHS’ unique program. Finally, Moro Ono earned the Nathan Lyndell Hall Memorial Scholarship in honor of a CHS graduate who passed away in a swimming accident shortly after his graduation in 2000.

Later in the evening, Tuzinsky announced three more awards. Tai Tworek won the Judith DeWoskin Writing Award; Charles Soloman accepted the Deal Al Gallup Scholarship for his service to CHS; and Mori Ono took home his second award of the night with the Bruce Bartman Memorial Scholarship, recognizing him as the student who best exemplifies CHS. The most prestigious scholarship at CHS, it honors a member of CHS’s first graduating class who died in a rock-climbing accident just after his senior year.

Seniors listen to speeches done by their teachers, forum leaders and peers. Photos by Sebastian Oliva.

The distribution of diplomas, and student speeches followed. The half minute ritual is time cherished, sometimes nervously, by all 132 graduates to express gratitude, hopes for the future and a message to their classmates. Each Forum took the stage one by one as every graduating member received their diplomas and gave their remarks. But not all speeches were the same. For example, Helen Schmitter, a senior in the Johnson Forum was unable to attend graduation because of camp, so Jenna Jarjoura, a fellow graduating forumette, held a cut out of Schmitter’s face while reciting her speech.

“I was super nervous to go on the stage because I hate talking in front of large groups of people,” Jarjoura said. “Now I really understand why you graduate with your forum. Being up there with Leah and Lindsay, and Helen in spirit, was so nice.”

Then, CHS Jazz took the stage and brought people to their feet. Led by vocalists Felicity Rosa-Davies, Ana Morgan, Marisa Andoni-Savas and Lila Fetter, the ensemble performed Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” Teachers and students danced and offered a sweeping round of applause. While on stage, Jack Wagner, CHS Jazz teacher, reflected on their return to performing.

Community High Jazz ensemble performs "Can't Stop The Feeling" by Justin Timberlake. Photo by Sebastian Oliva.

“Fifteen months without being able to play at a gig. That’s like going across the Sahara [Desert] without water, for a musician,” Wagner said.

Tuzinsky finished her closing remarks, the Jazz band played a recessional and just like that, CHS seniors were high schoolers no longer. The entire event ran only two hours and fifteen minutes, one of the shortest in CHS history, but was equally as memorable as those before it.

“I didn't really register what was happening until Marci ended her speech with a poem she used to give to her old forum,” Jarjoura said. “The poem was about how we are always looking for a destination but it's about the journey. I was just sitting there in my cap with two of my best friends Leah Dewey on my left and Delia Benetti on my right, and it was a surreal moment. That's the only time throughout the whole ceremony where I actually almost started crying.”
Teachers make a tunnel for the new graduates. Photo by Grace Wang.

In typical CHS fashion, staff spontaneously formed a tunnel for the students on their way out. Some graduates ran through with tears and thanks. Others high-fived and hugged their way out. But most everyone remained on the field long after the procession ended and watched as the sun set on their senior year.

Graduates throw their caps high in the air in gratitude for having concluded their senior year. Photo by Sebastian Oliva.